A distinguished panel is on stage: Chani Wiggins, a DC lobbyist on security and technology issues; Rohit Prasad, vice president of Alexa Machine Learning and Speech at Amazon; Congresswoman Suzan DelBene of Washington state, and Terah Lyons, former policy advisor to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer in the White House. We will be hearing about the policy challenges of Artificial Intelligence, a topic that has attracted a crowd of more than 500 in the Hilton’s Salon H.
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Prasad: Raises issue that pool of talent in AI is small. A challenge.
Prasad: Talent pool challenge is biggest in academia. Twenty years ago it was best place. Now you need large quantities of data and computing power. Hard for a grad student to test at scale. Don’t have good way to share with academia. The Alexa Prize was created for students to create a social bot that can engage coherently with a human for 20 minutes. Super hard. Students can test with millions of Alexa customers. Can research at scale.
Why does government need to invest when business invests so much?
Does AI have enough diversity among the players?
Rep DelBene: we need to think longer than two year horizon. We need to look at investments in terms of decades for education of children. We have not been good at long term plans. It has devastating consequences.
Lyons: Need to have a vision for the future. Will need to be proactive. Example: we had discussion about future of aviation. Secretary of Transportation in 2013 was not asked one question at confirmation hearings about drones.
Will Congress regulate AI?
Lyons: need appropriate regulatory environment for testing new technology.
My take: Everyone was understandably careful on this panel, which made it a bit bland or enlightening. It’s no surprise that we need long-term thinking and investments for AI and tech. How in the world to achieve that in the current polarized political environment is hard to figure out.
Lyons: Bringing tech from industry to work in government was very effective in last administration. It helped both sides. Helped on policy. I hope it continues. It’s revolutionizing the way government does its job.